22 May, 2015

Maoists in Western Ghats: Propaganda or Substance?

[Roopesh (left) & Shyna (right), Courtesy: Google]

Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

Article #4877, 21 May 2015



On 04th May 2015, in a bakery at a village near Coimbatore, Roopesh and his wife Shyna were arrested in a joint operation by the police of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The two have allegedly led Maoists in Kerala for years and are key strategists for the left-wing extremists.

It is germane to mention that the Maoists are attempting to push into northern Kerala for some time now. In November - December 2014, number of incidents at Palakkad and Wayanad districts indicated Maoist presence.

The latest issue (January-March 2015) of People’s March is out in public domain. Among many diverse revolutionary topics touched upon in the Maoist mouthpiece, the fundamental to be focused upon is the Politico-Military Campaign (PMC) in the Western Ghats. The essay shoots thus:

                       “Overcoming innumerable obstacles and snatching initiative, PLGA fighters and urban action team combatants led by the Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) of the CPI (Maoist) have opened up a new warfront in the State of Keralam.”

The matter goes ahead further:

Some of these actions were done in broad day light through bold and rapid moves in urban centres, stunning the enemy and enthusing the people..”

The Maoists claim that “these actions were carried out as part of a PMC carried out over a three month period, from November 2014 till January 2015”. Moreover, the ultras believe this ‘success’ to be a “qualitative turn” in their revolutionary war. They admit that a similar initiative undertaken a decade earlier had been muted in the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala by the security forces.

In fact, an abysmal failure on the part of the ultras pushed them to form the Western Ghat Special Zonal Committee [WGSZC] to propel forward. The document tells that the Maoists had started to systematically infiltrate the tri-junction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala from May 2012 itself from their base at Malnad. Since February 2013, when the presence of the Maoists was exposed to the security forces, according to the narrative, the extremists developed contacts with the adivasi masses, practically and simultaneously propagated revolutionary politics and the necessity of armed struggle. The PLGA cadres also studied the socioeconomic conditions of the region. In parallel, the Maoists fought in the plane of propaganda against their ex-comrades, whom they with derision term “exalites”- who had dismissed the Maoist expansion in Kerala.

As per their suo-moto admission, the region of concentration of the Maoists in Kerala is inhabited by fifty odd adivasi tribes engaged in agriculture and herding. The Maoists, quite expectedly, have chosen their area of expansion having large concentration of agricultural and plantation workers – spanning both adivasis and dalits.

Historically, the Maoists attempt to gain strength and credence from the proud history of fierce resistance to British colonialism by the Kurichya adivasis during the late 18th and early 19th century in the Wayanad area. Wayanad was also one of the main areas of revolutionary struggles in Kerala during the armed peasant rebellion of Naxalbari.

Finally, the essay zooms out by saying that this particular campaign at the tri-junction and consequent foray into Kerala defies the tall claims of the Indian state that the Maoist movement is confined in the Central and Eastern spheres of India only.

Now, the pertinent issue is what could be gleaned out of the analysis of the narrative?

First, this ought to be construed as a major propaganda construct by the Maoists than reality. Though it is a matter of fact that reports confirmed Maoist presence at the Tri-junction of the three Indian provinces, however just a mere presence does not mean establishment of a guerrilla base. The presence is qualitative; no quantitative factors have been posited by the guerrilla group.

Second, the Maoists are still using the term PLGA – which categorically proves that they are still far off from the third and decisive phase of guerrilla warfare – that is, the Strategic Offense phase with the People’s Liberation Army being ready for a conventional war.

Third, the claims of attracting the youth and the urban folk must be taken less seriously. The fact remains that certain issues related to the urban proletariat and the students may allow the Maoists to creep in and generate a wave of sympathy amongst the urban youth and intellectuals; the Maoist movement is hundreds of miles away from gaining a considerable foothold in the growing urban network in India.

Nonetheless, a stream of aid from the city bases – howsoever fledgling, is a cause of worry for the security and intelligence forces of the Indian state. Also the fact that educated, yet disgruntled individuals like the law graduate Roopesh taking to left-wing extremism implies that cities and towns would continue to provide shelters and logistics to the ultras.

Fourth, such an attempted expansion towards the southern part of the sub-continent indicates that the Maoists are trying hard to break the stranglehold of the counter-insurgency operations unleashed by the security forces since the last four to five years. Moreover, by diversifying their bases, the Maoists are keeping their ‘Plan B option’ open. If indeed they are forced to evacuate their primary stronghold of Abujhmaad, they can re-settle in the new guerrilla base.

Nevertheless, it could be safely admitted that a serious attempt has been made by the Maoists to intrude the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. They are targeting the adivasi and dalit masses who live in marginal conditions. Militarily too, they are studying the geography of the region to create vantage points in order to ambush the police forces. Political propaganda is on. It would however, be prudent for the police forces and the law and order authorities to take their positions. It is however heartening to find that joint operations by the police forces of the four southern states are in swing – well compounded by intelligence inputs.

- Dr Uddipan Mukherjee, IOFS (ADMINISTRATION) [OFB, Min of Defence]

Views expressed are author’s own